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Jun 29, 2011 | 3 minute read

Today’s Top 10 Ecommerce Re-Platforming Mistakes

written by David Chiu

Now that the typical enterprise ecommerce system has grown into a tangled network of business-critical applications, planning a re-platforming project has become vastly more difficult than it used to be. While it was never a good idea to rush headlong into software evaluation and selection, doing so with today’s more complex ecosystems is a recipe for disaster. Here are ten of the most common mistakes made by teams that rush towards procurement during the initial stages of re-platforming. They tend to immediately short-circuit a project by preventing organizations from fully understanding their problems, requirements and goals before they move onto searching for a solution.

1. Misunderstanding the new reality of ecommerce

Ecommerce platforms are evolving from monolithic (stand-alone) applications that provide functionality across the entire spectrum of customer experience into agile, easily integrated hubs that deliver high performance shopping services to a multitude of channels. The level of effort, risk and departmental cooperation required for this approach calls for a dedicated, highly technical team with a singular focus and a mandate from the highest executive levels.

2. Focusing on a channel at the expense of core goals

Highly visible but tactical objectives (like hot new user experience features) often drown out more technical or strategic goals that have equally impressive ROI. So great care must be taken to evaluate and document potential returns for both types of goals.

3. Not prioritizing the goals collectively and objectively

Not only do the goals of a re-platforming project range from tactical to strategic, but they also span different departments, each with its own KPIs and metrics. Each one needs to be quantified and consolidated into a single, unified master list so that they can be prioritized fairly and effectively.

4. Trying to do everything at once

The unified list of objectives will be long. Executives from each affected department must collaborate and make tough decisions regarding the appropriate phasing for the project, based on the net benefits to the enterprise as a whole.

5. Underestimating the impact of changes

Decommissioning an existing application almost always has unexpected impacts throughout the enterprise, from finance to operations. Make sure that you fully appreciate exactly how your commerce ecosystem is being leveraged by every user, before moving on to vendor evaluation and selection.

6. Overlooking scalability

The reality of today’s multichannel marketplace means a much broader definition of scalability, with new dimensions that must be considered. From API performance to integration stability, understanding new measures of “scale” is quickly becoming an essential component of planning a project.

7. Not documenting your ecosystem assessment

Capture the insights gained from these steps in a formal audit or assessment document. Having this information in hand will greatly streamline work with potential platform vendors and systems integrators, allowing them to quickly and accurately quote your project and work with you effectively during the requirements, business analysis or elaboration phases.

8. Attempting to predict all future requirements

Given the accelerating pace of innovation and change in the ecommerce market, a waterfall project methodology may not be the best way to achieve a fast time to market. Instead, concentrate valuable business analysis and solutions architecture resources on the pieces that matter now, and use agile processes to work towards demonstrable short-term goals.

9. Delegating the entire project to any one department

Because specific goals may be irrelevant, unimportant or detrimental in the short term to a given group, the risk of project sabotage is often high in re-platforming projects. Successful execution requires diligent interdepartmental coordination, diplomacy, and executive involvement at the highest levels, which frequently does not happen when the initiative is delegated entirely to a single department.

10. Not establishing cross-functional program management

Effective project management is ideally independent from stakeholder departments, responsible for the unified list of objectives, and capable of offering a single point of reference and contact for contractors, vendors and systems integrators. These tips are taken from our latest publications on ecommerce project management: our webinar A Practical Guide to Ecommerce Planning: Re-platforming in the Era of Elastic Commerce and free companion white paper The Top 10 Ecommerce Planning Mistakes.